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Mel Gravely

Relationship-Based Competencies: Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Educators

families as educatorsOur next blog is about Parent-Child Relationships and Families as Lifelong Learners, the fourth in our series about the 9 Relationship-Based Competencies.

Nothing is more important than the relationships that are built between parent and child. In creating these relationships, there is a tremendous amount of important learning that is happening. Our roles as Head Start/Early Head Start staff are to support, nurture and enhance parent-child relationships and to support parents’ role as the first and lifelong educators of their children. This is something that many parents have difficulty doing, because they think that all learning happens in a school setting.

Children are constantly learning from the different experiences that they are exposed to. Working with families to show them that every day things that happen can be turned into mini-lessons, like folding laundry, putting away dishes, or even baking cookies can be educational experiences. The great part of being enrolled in a Head Start or Early Head Start program is that families receive a tremendous amount of support from classroom staff, family advocates/educators, as well as community agencies. Head Start programs introduce both parents and children to making healthy life choices, ultimately helping families to become self-sufficient.

Teaching families to healthy eating habits, family goal setting, and showing families how to advocate for themselves are all great ways to nurture parent-child relationships, but also teaches families the importance of being lifelong educators.

Parents usually enroll their children into Head Start and Early Head Start programs for two reasons. 1.) They are in need of childcare; and 2.) They want their child to learn everything that they need to know, so that they will be ready when it comes time for them to enter kindergarten. What they don’t realize is that many of the things that they will be learning, to prepare them for a classroom setting, they will be learning at home. Most of their language building will come from the conversations that they have at home with their family and siblings.

It is the role of Head Start and Early Head Start staff to help families understand how vital families are to children’s development and learning. By constantly creating an environment that families can interact with their children, as well as assist with their learning process is very important. Providing support so that families are able to develop new skills, and build up confidence is key to both children and families being successful. Each day that families come into our programs, we are talking to them, building our own relationships with them, which in turn, helps us to share pertinent learning materials that reflect their culture and their diverse backgrounds.

Programs also need to make sure that we continue to invite families into our programs to participate in classroom activities, this will create wonderful opportunities for staff to work with each family individually, as well as in a group setting. These teachable moments will make it easier to nurture the bonding process between parent and child, and will provide staff with a clearer vision of what each family needs to reach their self created goals.

Overall, the stronger the relationships are that we create with the families that we are working with, the more successful we will be with making sure that they get all the information and support that they need, so that they can be at their best when it comes to parenting and guiding their children. Ultimately, teaching our families to be advocates and leaders in their own homes and communities.


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